This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!
58. Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
Dates: 5/9/20 (3.5 hours)
Plot: Animals rebel and take ownership of a farm. They adopt some methods of leadership similar to ones you may know.
Experience Before Reading: It’s funny because I told Abbey that all I knew about the book was that it was an extended metaphor for something and it definitely did not have talking animals. Whoops.
Takeaway: Since this book is an extended metaphor, I can’t fairly review it without talking about it. If you don’t want the book spoiled, stop right here and come back when you’ve read it!
This book is an allegory for the dangers of communism – particularly Joseph Stalin’s rise to power. This isn’t my first politically-charged book of the project, but it is the first one where the only takeaway is political. Typically I’m apprehensive to political commentary, but this one’s just so damn good.
There’s symbolism in almost everything: from the events that happen in the book to which animals do what. I suppose it’s no coincidence that the sheep follow blindly? Orwell adds an additional layer to the animals by making them inherently “unequal.” Some animals are better at reading, others at plowing the fields, and some don’t have any true skills. It’s definitely left me thinking what he meant by delineating between animals. I don’t want to ruin it, but I’d love to have a discussion about it down in the comments – for those of you that have read it, what do you think?
Anyway, I’m always a little uncomfortable with political commentary since it’s very polarizing. However, I didn’t mind it here. I think it’s because Orwell works hard to not explicitly express feelings towards any of the events in the story: he lets you decide how to feel. By using animals instead of people, he kind of – excuse the pun – leads the horse to the water by showing the absurdity of the situation.
After doing more research into the book, I’m shocked at how many of the characters represent real Soviet figures. The story line even correlates to specific events and ideas. This isn’t just an allegory, it verges on a retelling of history that switches out the names and places. That being said, if you do choose to read this book, please follow it up with research. It enriches the story and leaves you awestruck.
Lastly, I’d be mistaken not to mention the ending of this book. Without spoiling it, this is an ending that leaves you in silence. I was stunned by the power of the last few words. Any perfectionist can find instant satisfaction in knowing that every word is deliberately placed in furtherance of the theme. Honestly, I think that alone is a good enough reason to read this book.
As always, I’d love to hear thoughts and opinions on this book, especially since this review is so one-sided.
Would I Recommend It?: Yes. This is a must-read classic.
Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)
Plot: Mr. Jones’ animals come together in an uprising following the teaching of Animalism by Major the wise old pig. The novella details the inner working of a farm run by Animalism, and shows the successes and failures that come about.
Experience Before Reading: I read Animal Farm once before when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I remember the plot fairly well, but missed on some of the major takeaways.
Takeaway: Basically this book is a critique on communism in The USSR under Joseph Stalin and its failings. I think one of the major areas of concern is about the importance of having fully realized political opinions. One of the major issues in the book is that some animals are not able to grasp the concepts being taught to them and “agree with whomever is talking at the moment.” Also, I’m glad I read The Art of War before this because you actually can see some of the tactics in the Battle of the Cowshed.
Would I Recommend It?: This is one of those books I think everyone should read. Regardless of your political beliefs this is an interesting commentary on political systems and the greed of man (or animal?).